Minnesota Expands State’s Whistleblower Law

10/04/2013 // Whistleblower Law Firm (Press Release) // Keller Grover // (press release)

The latest in a line of states to create or expand whistleblower laws, Minnesota has updated its existing statute to protect both public- and private-sector employees from retaliation — including dismissal — for reporting fraud and other misconduct. The new Minnesota Whistleblower Act also clarifies several key terms left undefined in the original 1987 statute. The result, say whistleblower lawyers, is a statute that will better support employees who speak out about wrongdoing by their corporate employers.

“Minnesota is yet another example of a state that has seen the incredible success of whistleblower statutes in combating fraud and other wrongful behavior,” says Jeffrey F. Keller, a founding partner at Keller Grover, a nationally recognized labor and employment law firm, and a veteran whistleblower lawyer. “Many of these statutes are based on the landmark federal law, the False Claims Act, which has led to the recovery of more than $34 billion for the government since it was modified in 1986. A key reason for that statute’s success has been the support it provides whistleblowers. By expanding and clarifying its original law, Minnesota is taking a smart step to boost its potency.”

The state’s 1987 whistleblower statute applied only to state employees. Now private-sector employees are covered, as well. The new law also defines, for the first time, several key terms in the original statute. That law forbade employers “from discharging, disciplining, threatening, or penalizing an employee in retaliation for making a good faith report of a violation or suspected violation of any federal or state law.” But because the terms “good faith” and “penalize” were not explicitly defined, Minnesota courts had to interpret what the legislature meant by them.

The new definitions, experts say, are decidedly whistleblower-friendly, making it easier for those with knowledge of wrongdoing to speak out about it. The new law defines “good faith” as any statements or disclosures that are not knowingly false or made in reckless disregard of the truth. It defines “penalize” as “conduct that might dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a report, including post-termination conduct by an employer or conduct by an employer for the benefit of a third party.”

“What Minnesota’s new law does is give whistleblowers there certainty,” says Keller, whose firm has offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. “It lets them know that if they see something wrong they can disclose it without worrying that a court may say they don’t qualify for whistleblower protection. They also have certainty that their employer cannot fire them, or otherwise penalize or discipline them, because they spoke out.”

“That’s better for them, of course, says Keller. But in the end it is better for all of us all around the country. Because when whistleblowers speak out, fraud and other improper acts everywhere can be beaten back — and ended.”

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